Like a Beggar

//Like a Beggar
Like a Beggar 2016-10-26T19:07:55+00:00

LikeaBeggar200pxIn her newest collection, Ellen Bass’s deft poetic touch and piercingly intimate voice continues an ongoing exploration of life’s essential question: how do we go on? These poems vividly inhabit sorrow and suffering, yet are rich with praise, delighting in the absurdity and humor of our flawed human intelligence. Like a Beggar handles the “the hard evidence of the earth” with grace, elegantly connecting the humble to the luminous.

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In Praise of the Book

Listen to Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Philip Levine discuss with Paul Muldoon Ellen Bass’s “What Did I Love” from Like a Beggar on the New Yorker podcast. ““There is such a sense of ritual about

[‘What Did I Love’]. And such a clarity of purpose . . . I found it so powerful and complex . . . such a strange and haunting collection of feelings and attitudes and it was so exquisitely done, everything was so precisely viewed. . . . She’s a poet with terrific power.”—Philip Levine

“Ellen Bass has written these poems in service and celebration of Eros, the life force that can wake us, the weary citizens of this all too broken world. The poems know what they contend with; they don’t flinch. Then they sing their joy.”—Marie Howe

“Ellen Bass’s newest collection of poems shimmers with presence, power and beauty. In it Bass speaks from the deepest places of the heart, clearly, boldly, and with courage and grace. These are poems to be savored and devoured, over and over, for they brim with a wisdom that she clearly earns from the keen authenticity of her life. Like a Beggar is a gift, a blessing, a map, a chronicle, a hymn, and a cry—and most of all a dazzling, masterful work of art.” —Frank Gaspar

“The irony is that Like a Beggar is a book about riches. These are luxurious poems, full of gorgeous language; and they also ‘muddy their hands with the actual,’ they ‘handle the hard evidence of the earth.’ With great intelligence and heart, Bass wakes us up to the riches and reminds us of our better selves. The way Bass brings together the humble and the luminous in this elegant book sets it apart and makes it thrilling. Good poets help us to see the world in a new way; great ones open the mind to new ways of conceiving that world and our connections to it. Like a Beggar does this for me.”—Toi Derricotte

“Observant, curious, honest, not fancy but beautifully measured and crafted, Ellen Bass’s poems take on the whole cloth–she looks at wasps and bad habits and infidelity and old Jewish ladies, tomato fungus and the million other phenomena of our average lives. Plenty of bad news, here, plenty of heartbreak. Call her a midwife, call her a priest, if you’re from Berkeley, call her a life coach: in some way her poems talk us through it. She has a radiant, capable heart, a sense of humor, and knows her art. Reading her poems fills me with respect and gratitude.”—Tony Hoagland

“Her words are nostalgic, vivid, and visceral. . . . Bass arrives at the truth of human carnality rooted in the extraordinary need and promise of the individual. By [Like a Beggar]’s end—following her musings on suicide and generosity, desire and repetition—it becomes lucidly clear that Bass is not only a poet but also a philosopher and a storyteller.” —Briana Shemroske, Booklist

“Exquisitely wrought in language and imagery, Ellen Bass’s third collection meditates on sequencing images.  Her poems open in one place and close elsewhere. . . . The reader follows Bass through each line to arrive at the closing image, a place made more beautiful in facing what came before. . . .Bass’s work reminds us of the hard jobs, the frigid waiting to catch sight of something magnificent, but Like a Beggar suggests that sometimes we catch what we already had in our hands. We feast there, on her ending images that resonate outward with the wisdom of gratitude. . . .The imagery in Like a Beggar is gorgeous.” —Laura Madeline Wiseman, Ploughshares

“Bass’s deftness as a poet is breathtaking in Like a Beggar. By which I mean: I am left breathless reading these poems and witnessing her control of the line. Then, I am equally awed by my own breathlessness, which Bass, of course, has elicited artfully through her control. Reading each poem I feel as though I have been walking up and down the hills of Esalen with her. Like a Beggar, sings with the clarity of a single voice alone in a large concert hall and with the gravitas of a full chorus in the finale of a sold out opera. These poems are large in their ambitions and precise in their observations.”—Julie R. Enszer, The Rumpus

Like a Beggar is Ellen Bass’s most recent collection. It is, hands down, the most engaging, compelling and emotionally moving collection of poems I’ve read this past year. Every so often, I have the good fortune to read poems that resonate so deeply, they are living things that leap right off the page and sing the language of my soul. Like a Beggar does that for me. . . .This book is written with the heart and soul of a virtuoso artist and the sensibilities of a highly skilled artisan. (Stealing an image from one of her poems) Ellen Bass uses plain language to create scintillating imagery that sparkles and shines in the way a blacksmith might pound glowing red, nearly molten metal into sturdy but beautiful wrought-iron implements that endure daily use and the test of time with grace.” —Michael Gillian Maxwell, MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews

“Ellen Bass’s poems are at once crushing and uplifting. The feeling you take away after reading her newest collection, Like a Beggar, is one of welcome amazement. In her consistently unsettling and unflappable voice, Bass shepherds her readers through the disorder of disparate images and shimmering, lovely lines. We are confronted again and again with pain and loss and disappointment lashed together, surprisingly and yet comfortingly, with still, simple pleasures and deep gratitude.”—Maggie Trapp,